Acts 21:18The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. 19After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Sometimes God interrupts our plans.
A columnist on the Post-Tribune recently asked: “Did your life turn out as you planned?”
Before going off to college I asked my pastor about becoming a minister. “If at all possible,” he advised, “do something else. But if not possible, enter the ministry.” Twice more I considered going to seminary; twice more something else fit better with my skills and spirit. Finally the Berlin Wall fell and my employer began laying people off. My employer offered to pay tuition for those volunteering to be laid off and consider an alternate career. Finally I went to Seminary.
My first two careers strengthened my knowledge of people and the circumstances of secular employment. Those skills and experiences also supported me between pastorates.
Where has God been at work in your life, changing and challenging your plans?
Acts 19:6 When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied – 7 altogether there were about twelve of them.
Ordination of Elders and Deacons is one of my favorite events in the life of a congregations. While some denominations only ordain Clergy, Presbyterians also ordain the lay leaders of a congregation. I am always pleasantly surprised when people who had been ordained as an elder years ago come forward to ordain a new elder or deacon. I think: “Aha, I knew you were an elder by the way the Holy Spirit lives through you.”
As Paul reminded these disciples, God gives the Holy Spirit to all believers at their baptism.
John 12:21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
One of the joys and challenges of pastoral ministry is standing in for Jesus. It is always a joy to introduce people to the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection, and eternal life. It is always a challenge for the human ego wants to present this as my ministry instead of Jesus’ ministry through me.
Perhaps this is why Jesus answers this request speaking cryptically of his own death, and less cryptically of those who wish to serve Jesus. In short, Jesus wants us to give up our self interests so his might grow through us.
How have you experienced the joy and challenge of serving as Jesus’ emissary to the world?
John 11:7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”‘ 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.
Fear is a strong deterrent. But faith in the Light of the World is even stronger. Jesus challenges us to step out in faith, even when our personal safety is challenged.
But do so only to glorify God, not one’s self. Zipping through traffic requires courage or at least foolishness. Stopping to help someone points beyond one’s self.
How has your faith encouraged you to walk were others feared they might stumble?
Job 14:7 For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease.
I am amazed by the persistence of life. Tree stumps push up new roots. Forests regrow in valleys devastated by volcanoes or tornadoes. Why should we presume human life ends in the grave? The impact we have on others continues for generations. Scripture promises that our spirits continue eternally, that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Spirits who have helped me connect with the divine. Spirits who persist to connect you also with God.